November 5, 2015

Impact of new housing bill hard to judge

Generation rent to Generation buy

“It is a truly historic moment that will help deliver the homes hard-working people rightly deserve, transforming generation rent into generation buy”
Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, 13th October 2015

On Monday 2nd November 2015 the House of Commons passed the second reading of the Conservative Government’s landmark Housing and Planning Bill, a 119-page legislation document with a clear message that they would keep the country building while giving hard-working families every opportunity to unlock the door to home ownership.

Among other measures, the key focuses of the Housing and Planning Bill include:

  • A guarantee to deliver new ‘starter homes’, promoted to local first-time buyers, on all reasonably sized new development sites;
  • Threatening to force local plans on councils who fail to adopt their own strategies for delivering homes by 2017;
  • Introducing automatic ‘planning permission in principle’ on qualifying land, including brownfield sites to encourage housebuilding in cities and allowing councils to bid for a share of £10million to help prepare suitable brownfield sites;
  • Forcing local councils to sell off ‘high value’ vacant council housing to fund the extension of the Right-to-Buy scheme;
  • A duty on councils to help allocate land to people who want to build their own homes; and
  • Making permanent the temporary rule introduced in 2013 to allow change of use from offices to residential housing without planning permission.

While the Government states that the bill ‘kick-starts a national crusade to get one million homes built by 2020’, some of the changes have been met with a mixed reaction. For example, whilst the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) welcomes the priority being afforded to housing by the Government, the Bill in many ways undermines the shift towards local decision making under the Localism Act 2012.

The headline provision is the introduction of a new legal duty on councils to guarantee the provision of 200,000 starter homes, offered to first-time buyers by developers at a 20% discount on market price and in place of affordable housing for rent under section 106 obligations. While the Government focus on home ownership is understandable (with recent statistics showing that just 63.3% of households across England now own their home, a figure lower than France for the first time in a generation), unless the ‘affordable housing’ issue and definition is revisited, the proposals will likely come at the expense of those who may never be able to afford to buy their own home. The issue could be further worsened by the extended rights for housing association tenants under the ‘Right to Buy’.

Whilst the new Housing and Planning Bill indicates the importance of housebuilding across the UK economy, there are still a number of questions to be answered on the implementation of the legislation and how the adverse impacts will be mitigated. The enormous discretion afforded by Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, means that the impacts of the Bill are still very difficult to judge.

For further information on the Housing and Planning Bill, or to discuss a project that you think might benefit from our expertise, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Planning and Development Department on 01858 439 090 or email